Remarks at reception for VOA-Armenia’s 65th Anniversary

Dear guests, thank you for joining me today to mark the 65th anniversary of Voice of America’s Armenian service. I would especially like to welcome our guests from the VOA:  Dr. Biberaj, director of VOA/Eurasia Division, and two senior members of his staff: Ms. Chakarian and Ms. Mkhitaryan.  We also have with us tonight Mr. Gartner, director of sales and marketing Eurasia for the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Throughout its history, Voice of America has proudly stood for free, independent, and unbiased reporting, giving voice to opinions across the political and societal spectrum and helping its viewers around the globe stay informed and engaged in the events shaping their future. Everyone gathered here tonight understands the critical importance of such reporting, and how important it is to foster an open and unfettered media environment. You know, too, how fragile press freedoms can be, and how fiercely they must be protected.  And so, I would like to take this opportunity to salute not only the dedicated journalists of VOA, but also the brave and dedicated Armenian media professionals who are here tonight and who fight for those freedoms every day – news directors, journalists, cameramen, cartoonists, and bloggers.  Among tonight’s attendees are some of the reporters and cameramen who have endured assaults, been attacked or faced intimidation, because of the vital work they do.

Many were injured, or their equipment damaged, during the Erebuni protests, in attacks that not only targeted the journalists in a physical sense, but the very concept of press freedom in general. I deeply admire the critical role played every day by all the media professionals gathered here tonight, and assure you that we at the U.S. Embassy, and in the U.S. Government, strongly support the work you do.

Please join me in saluting them.

Though a small service in terms of VOA’s global operations, Voice of America’s Armenian Service is a leading international broadcaster in this country.  I have heard directly from Armenians in rural areas and here in Yerevan what an important role VOA has played as an unbiased source of information for its Armenian audience, setting the gold standard for its free and independent reporting. Over the past 65 years, the VOA Armenian Service has built a proud legacy of unbiased journalism.

I wish VOA’s Armenian Service another 65 years – and more – of independent reporting and fearless advocacy.

I would now like to offer the microphone to Dr. Elez Biberaj, the director of VOA’s Eurasia Division, who is visiting us from Washington, D.C.

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By Elez Biberaj,
Director, Eurasia Division, VOA

Good evening.

It is a great honor to be here with you in Yerevan to celebrate the 65th Anniversary of Voice of America’s Armenian Service. We deeply appreciate Ambassador’s Mills hosting this reception. Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador.

I am pleased to be here with Adam Gartner, Director of the Marketing Office in Prague for the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors

I am also very pleased to be here with two of my colleagues from Washington: two great Journalists and two great Armenian-Americans, who care very much about the well-being of Armenia and the Armenian Nation, Vivian Chakarian is the program manager of VOA’s Eurasia Division. And Inesa Mkhitaryan is the Chief of the Armenian Service.

We are very proud of our Armenian Service – It is one of the most successful VOA services and its reach and impact are great. VOA has played a key role in the most remarkable chapters of the contemporary history of the Armenian nation. Indeed there are few institutions here in Armenia who are as old as our Armenian service.

Since its inception 65 years ago, The Armenian service has strongly supported Armenia’s aspirations for freedom and democracy by empowering its citizens with accurate, objective, and balanced news and information about the United States, their own country, and the world.

Throughout the years of communist rule, the fall of the Soviet Union, the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, and independent Armenia’s efforts to consolidate its democratic order, VOA has steadfastly delivered unbiased and reliable news and information to Armenia and Armenian speakers around the world and has served as an outlet for opposition alternatives and public debate.

Today, VOA’s Armenian service’s television programming reaches every week one-third of Armenia’s adult population. The service’s digital audience has grown steadily. The service reaches and engages Armenians on platforms of their choosing – whether it is mobile, desktop, specialized application, or social media.

Despite the progress that Armenia has made in the last 25 years in all fields, including the media, we strongly believe that VOA broadcasts are of vital importance.

I want to thank Ambassador Mills and you all for joining us in recognizing the Armenian service for reaching this milestone, for its continued efforts to inform and engage our Armenian audiences, and for its dedication to the highest journalistic principles.